Friday, March 07, 2008

Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela Make Nice, But Who Won?

Watch the hug

What a surreal scene down in Santo Domingo, DR. One minute the Ecuadorian, Venezuelan and Colombian Presidents (Correa, Chavez and Uribe) are enchanging insults, the next they are shaking hands. What the hell happened over lunch?

My guess is that crisis fatigue wore on. All involved realized they had made their points and there was nowhere else to go but to back down nice and east with all egos in check.

The tone was perhaps set by the prior night's announcement by Ecuador that they had raided and caught FARC rebels (the 47th such camp they have raided under Correa). Hugo Chavez was also quoted earlier in the day as calling for peaceful discussions and a racheting down of the crisis. Uribe continued his attacks, but Rafael Correa got the loudest applauses with his reasoned and principled stand.

Who wins, who loses? I think all win with their domestic constituencies. Correa, like Uribe, was supported by 80% plus of his countrymen during the crisis, but he probably boosted his standing in Latin America and the world the most. Chavez should also get a bump, though his enemies are inclined to see only bluster and not appreciate what he did for a little country by sticking his neck out there. He stood up to creeping aggression but eventually knew when to back off and take at least a partial victory.

Colombia had to apologize and say they will never do it again, pleasing Correa and Chavez. The concensus in the room on that was just too strong. Uribe was terribly isolated. But Colombia will probably end up getting some better cooperation on border issues from Ecuador and Venezuela. Hopefully progress on the hostages and Colombian peace process will also get back on tgrack, but I doubt it.

So the biggest losers of all this appears to be the families of the FARC hostages. Uribe could change and create the conditions for negotiation and progress, but I doubt it. But there may perhaps not be a better time for serious talks. Let us hope.

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